Integrative Biology professors Francis Chan and Bruce Menge and recent integrative biology graduate Jeremy Rose (PhD '15) are co-authors of a study on the effects of ocean acidification on West Coast mussels published in Ecology Letters.
The study examined how juvenile mussels respond to varying environmental conditions at seven sites spread across 800 miles of coastline in California and Oregon. The results showed that the ability of mussels to cope with more acidic conditions depends largely on how much food is available to them, and both factors vary from place to place in a complex geographic mosaic of environmental and ecological conditions.
As the oceans absorb increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, ocean acidification is expected to make life harder for many marine organisms, especially shellfish and other animals with shells or skeletons made of calcium carbonate. Acidification refers to a lowering of the pH of seawater when it absorbs carbon dioxide, pushing it closer to the acidic end of the scale, although it is still slightly alkaline. A small decrease in pH affects the chemical equilibrium of seawater, making it harder for organisms to build calcium carbonate structures.